Conversion Therapy? Not in my Bible.

Conversion therapy is a relatively new concept. It is not Biblical and does not fit in with any scriptural understanding of conversion or sanctification. But the media for some time has portrayed it as a dangerous behaviour of mainly evangelical and pentecostal Christians.

We do well to think through our understanding of this especially in our current moral volatility. Through our lives as we develop and mature, we often change our minds and our allegiances. Our politics can move left or right. Our views on immigration, social care, financial security, among many other things, can change radically. But what the new edict on gender change has done is to say that once you have decided to ‘come out’ or change your gender, there is no going back. You cannot change your mind for a second time. It is like saying that if you always voted for the left and now you decided to vote for the right, you can never vote left again. Simplistically. 

Here is the big challenge for the church. There has always been an agenda to stop Christians sharing their faith. We can see it in every nation across the face of the earth. Some nations will blatantly forbid Christians to witness or invite people to church. China, Pakistan, Iran are obvious examples, but there are many others. Western nations are more likely to use more subtle methods making it unacceptable to mention your faith and beliefs in the workplace or in the social arena.

We have seen that it is frowned upon to try to change the beliefs of other people by reason or even by giving a testimony. Protections are being proposed for Muslims so that it would be illegal to share your faith with them. Bibles are being taken out of schools, hospitals and hotels in case people read them and ‘change their religion’. Atheists and humanists are trying to shut down debates in the public arena.

So where does conversion therapy impact all of this? Interestingly, I have never heard the term used by Christians but used a lot by those who work to resist the power of the Christian faith to change people’s lives. Whereas the word ‘Christian’ was used in the first century as an abuse, so ‘conversion therapy’ is used in the same way today to intimidate Christian evangelism.

I submit that the two words ‘conversion’ and ‘therapy’ are totally incompatible and so can never be reasonably used together.

For a start, conversion is a Christian concept, rooted in the gospel. (Acts 15:3) Everywhere the apostles travelled they left converts behind who formed the new churches. Like Paul, these people were persuaded that Jesus was the Messiah and had an experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Because of this, their lifestyle began to be changed, as they were taught by the church and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. It was not a self-improvement programme but a radical change of direction from the heart and the mind. There are two aspects of becoming a Christian, one is sudden and determined and the second is progressive and actioned by continual obedience to the voice and the word of God.

Therapy is a totally different concept. It is ‘the treatment of mental or psychological disorders by psychological means’.  Therapy is done to a person by another person. It is from the outside in, but conversion is from the inside out. Even sanctification is from the inside out because no amount of biblical teaching will change a person unless it is received in the heart of that person. So when the world puts those two words together, conversion therapy, it totally muddies the understanding of what it means to be sanctified, to become more like Jesus, more Godlike.

The church does not offer therapy to its members nor to the world. It offers the opportunity to be so impacted by the holiness and love of God that we will never be the same again. Then it offers a life of being transformed into His likeness by the power of the Holy Spirit in every single believer. This might mean several changes of opinion and perspectives. So that by the time we reach the end of our journey we will be ready to meet Him.

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